Visiting Cassville held to three hits, one run, fans 14 times vs. Mathew, three relievers in Tuesday 7-1 loss to MINK League North leader

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
(EDITOR'S NOTE: June 14, 2:30 p.m. – Lead corrected to reflect correct St. Joseph record and winning percentage)

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Playing their last non-MINK League game for several weeks Tuesday, the Chillicothe Mudcats posted a sixth-consecutive victory – 7-1 over the Cassville Arrows – to improve to 8-2 overall.
The significant milepost for the Fish, schedule-wise, set the stage for last night’s first of 21-straight scheduled league games over the next three weeks.
As that began, the Mudcats were tied for first place, winning percentage-wise, in the league’s North Division with a 4-2 league record. Percentage-wise, that was equal to St. Joseph’s .667 rate. Having played twice as many league games as Chillicothe through Tuesday, the Ponies’
8-4 MINK mark gave them a 1-game advantage over Chillicothe in the standings.
The Fish visited Clarinda, Iowa, last night (visit www.chillicothenews.com online for a story on that game) and will turn right around and meet the same A’s in a 7:05 p.m. home game at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium today.
Tonight will be “Constitution-Tribune Night” at the game. The first 48 youngsters to enter the stadium will receive a free baseball, courtesy of the C-T.
Chillicothe’s third victory over Cassville in as many meetings this summer on Tuesday bore a strong resemblance to their game at Trenton, Mo., the night before, as well as the Mudcats’ last two triumphs over league foe Nevada (Mo.) last weekend, except this one didn’t involve trailing at some point.
The four most-recent of the consecutive triumphs have been by scores of 4-3, 3-2, 4-2, and 7-2, in that order – just the types of games Jack Winters, Chillicothe head coach, had blueprinted his club playing when he formulated his roster last fall and winter.
Asked if the stretch is an indication his players have “settled in” to their summer surroundings and wood-bat style of play, he responded, “You nailed it right there.”
The contest included Mudcats season lows in runs (one) and hits (three) allowed and, for a second-straight night, 14 strikeouts of Arrows batters.
The Fish’s first two batters of the game reached and scored and starting pitcher Zack Mathes (1-1) and three relievers kept Cassville in the rearview mirror, even though the Arrows were right on the Mudcats’ back bumper until the last couple of innings.
A 10-25 miles per hour south wind blowing in from right field at “June” Shaffer Memorial Park stadium impacted the game even before Chillicothe took its first swings.
Because of the strong air current at his back, Mudcats right fielder Tanner Baker gambled with his positioning, setting up for righthanded hitters perhaps no more than 200-220 feet from home plate in the anticipation the wind would hold up anything hit over his head. That wager paid off in a little-seen way for his team and Mathes on the game’s third batter.
After retiring the first two batters, Mathes saw righty-hitting Tryston Tompkins of Cassville slash a low line drive between the first and second baseman and cleanly, on one skip off the infield dirt, into right field for an apparent hit. However, as soon as the ball came off the bat toward him, he raced in to get to it as quickly as possible. Scooping it up cleanly perhaps 60 feet onto the outfield grass and about 80 feet from the first-base bag, the lefthanded thrower from Peoria, Ariz., and Arizona’s Grand Canyon University gunned the ball to first baseman Chris Peres, the ball beating Tompkins to the bag by nearly a stride. With a 9-3 putout, Mathes had unexpectedly worked a 1-2-3 first half-inning.
Gaining a lift from the unusual defensive play, Chillicothe immediately seized the initiative at the plate.
Ramger Iglesias easily beat the throw to first on his high-bouncing, leadoff bunt single and soon stole second without a throw. Christian Hoplock joined him on base by accepting a walk from Cassville starting and losing pitcher Chance Liveoak.
A groundout to the right side moved the quick baserunners up 90 feet, allowing Bryce Bisenius’ fisted looper over the first baseman’s head to be a run-scoring single that also advanced a man to third. Baker followed with a scoring fly to right-center and Mathes had a lead to care for. The St. Andrews University righthander from Collinsville, Ill., pampered it well.
He held the visitors hitless until the fourth inning when a nicely-manufactured run was created via a single, an advancing grounder, a wild pitch, and a 2-outs single by Smith Kemper.
Mathes got right back on track in the fifth and completed a 6-innings outing having struck out 10 Arrows while allowing one run on three hits.
“Zack looked good,” head/pitching coach Winters assessed. “He got ahead of a lot of batters. He located his fastball low. He used the slider as an ‘out’ pitch – he got a lot of checked swings on breaking pitches in the dirt.”
Still protecting the narrow 2-1 edge as they came to bat in the seventh following reliever Steven Acosta’s 1-2-3 inning, Chillicothe at last did additional damage to C. Liveoak and first reliever Alex Dyer.
A 1-out walk to Kenny Jarema prompted the Cassville starter’s removal. Iglesias greeted Dyer with the second of his three hits, but a tough-luck, line-drive out to left off Hoplock’s bat gave the guests a chance to get to the eighth still down only one run.
They didn’t make it.
Mired in an 0-for-15 slump over the past four games, Justin Blasinski poked a low-arcing pop fly into shallow center field that found the grass for a hit just ahead of the diving catch attempt of the Arrows center fielder. Jarema scored from second easily and Iglesias and Blasinski ended up at third and second, respectively, when an ill-advised throw was made toward home plate.
Now up 3-1, Chillicothe established more separation. Designated hitter Bryce Bisenius, fresh from a 3-hits game the night before at Trenton, slashed a line-drive single down the left-field line for his second hit of this contest. It sent Iglesias and Blasinski home for a 5-1 Mudcats advantage.
While that would be more than enough to win, since Nate Wenson and Dan Naif emulated Acosta’s work with hitless, shutout innings in the eighth and ninth, Chillicothe further inflated its cushion on a bases-full walk to Jarema and an Iglesias single in the eighth.
While the pitching and defense pieces appear to be falling into place as designed – a definitive answer won’t be clear until the team goes through at least the next few games against exclusively MINK League opposition, Chillicothe’s offensive production has dipped a bit after averaging about 11 runs a game through the year’s first half-dozen games.
However, while the volume of runs has declined even as the wins streak has grown, a constant of the attack – the ability of anyone and everyone Winters and offensive assistant Ken Durling put in the lineup to play a key role in what scoring is done – has held true. On Tuesday, six Mudcats had hits and scored.
“We have a complete lineup,” the head coach affirmed an observation that rallies can be created, sustained, or capped by any part of whatever lineup the coaches fashion on a given day. “… One through nine, we’re very dangerous. … I think that’s the way Mr. Doubleday wanted it to be,” he said, referencing reputed 1800s baseball originator/developer Abner Doubleday.
Not only have all of the position players participated significantly in the scoring on repeated occasions already, but they “give away” few at-bats when the game is undecided – battling to get hits or force opposing pitchers to work long counts.
Details Winters, “Part ofthat is the players are well-coached at their colleges. Another part of that is they’re just smart baseball players. Another factor is Ken’s influence as an offensive coach.”
Statistically Tuesday, the excellent numbers carved out by the four Chillicothe pitchers were supported by errorless defense, another three runs batted in by Bisenius, and Iglesias’ trio of hits and two runs scored.
Bisenius is eight for his last 16 with six RBI, boosting his season runs batted in total to a team-topping 15. His batting average has spiked to .350, second on the club to Chris Peres’ .423.
Although pleased overall with the excitable Mathes’ performance, Winters said after the game he’d already counselled the hurler on ways to improve further.
One way is to stay within himself when he gets ahead of a batter, rather than to exert even more effort on the next pitch or two, trying to make a perfect delivery. Even if he does make a great pitch and gets the out, the extra expenditure of physical and mental energy usually will shorten the duration of his effectiveness and outings.
“He’s going to have to pace himself to be effective,” the Mudcats’ field boss mused. “When he tries to overthrow, that’s when he leaves balls up and better-hitting teams are going to punish you when that happens.”